Monday, May 20, 2024
GeneralPORT SMELL FINDINGS TO BE IMPLEMENTED IN FULL

PORT SMELL FINDINGS TO BE IMPLEMENTED IN FULL

RECOMMENDATIONS emanating from an environmental audit into last year’s controversial foul odour from Warrenpoint Port are to be implemented ‘in full’. In September, Warrenpoint Harbour Authority (WHA) confirmed that it was ‘appointing an environmental specialist to carry out an independent, robust, and scientific based investigation’ into the smell, and the findings of this were published in a lengthy report on Thursday. The previous month, the body had issued an apology for the odour, which it said was being caused by household rubbish being recycled by its tenant Re-Gen Waste.

A number of public meetings and protests on the issue have been held in the town since last August. The 46-page report – the appendices run to 1,267 pages – noted that Practical Waste Solutions Ltd had been engaged by WHA to ‘provide an independent environmental report in relation to reports of odour and fly activity associated with the waste transfer station operated by Re-Gen Ltd within the harbour site’. ‘The facility operated within the port is used for the storage of refuse derived fuel (RDF) bales, produced by Re-Gen at their waste facility located within Carnbane Industrial Estate, Newry,’ it read. ‘The RDF is subsequently exported by ship to various locations within Europe, for incineration as a sustainable, renewable energy source.’

The document highlighted that preliminary findings indicated ‘instances of out-of-date bales, compromised bales, bales stored outside the licensed area, with associated odour and fly activity’. However, it added that there had been a ‘multifaceted improvement strategy implemented by Re-Gen’, and that there had been a ‘significant reduction in the number of bales stored and an improvement in the condition of the bales, due to a much reduced “dwell time”’. The report stated that there had been ‘progressive improvements recorded in recent months, with a reduction in reported odours and fly activity’. ‘Poor communication between Re-Gen and WHA with respect to regulatory correspondence’ was noted, given that ‘WHA did not and do not receive copies of non-compliances from either Re-Gen or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)’. A total of 10 licence requirement breaches by Re-Gen were recorded by NIEA between 16 August and 9 October 2023. The document also said that there was a ‘perceived lack of engagement with residents and local businesses by the two main stakeholders (WHA and Re-Gen), and that ‘other potential sources of odour and flies’ had been identified. Its key recommendations included: a target of six weeks’ dwell time for any bales, instead of the statutory three months; a targeted reduction in bale height to a maximum of eight bales; the sharing of all regulatory correspondence with WHA by Re-Gen; the appointment of an environmental officer by WHA; the continuation of ongoing and regular independent monitoring of the waste facility; and better stakeholder engagement, which would occur through the establishment of a community forum. ‘A reduction in the “dwell time” of bales should have a significant impact on reducing odour at the facility,’ the report read. ‘This in turn will reduce the height and extent of the bale stack. ‘To that end, Practical Waste Solutions would recommend that a “dwell time” of six weeks be introduced, as best as is reasonable. Recommendations fr report to be impleme ‘This should also help to reduce the build-up of heat within the stockpile, mitigating fly activity. ‘As previously stated, because of the time of year this report has been authored, it would be a strong recommendation that ongoing independent monitoring of all aspects of the ReGen facility at WHA continues. ‘This is to ensure that undertakings given by Re-Gen, with respect to the overall recommendations made, are adhered to. ‘This independent monitoring, in collaboration with the soon to be appointed environmental officer, should provide robust oversight.’ A number of other recommendations are also included within the report. These include more frequent rotation of deodorisers and insecticides, the installation of electronic fly control systems, and consideration of appropriate bird control to reduce potential damage to bales and netting.

In a statement, WHA said that it will be implementing the report’s recommendations ‘in full’. ‘Following the intermittent odour last year, WHA immediately engaged with Re-Gen to address these issues, and it commissioned an independent report to help prevent any future recurrence,’ it read. ‘The audit, which collected and interpreted data from a range of sources, including local residents, provided a series of findings and recommendations relating to both WHA and ReGen. ‘The report recognised the positive impact of the steps taken in late 2023 to mitigate odour and fly issues, but found that the statutory conditions that enabled Re-Gen to hold bales on-site for up to three months was the single greatest contributory factor to the odour and fly issue. ‘WHA has committed to delivering on all the report’s recommendations, with Re-Gen agreeing to implement all proposed actions.’ WHA chair Dr Gerard O’Hare said: “On behalf of the board I would, once again, like to apologise for the odour and fly issue that arose last year, and I want to assure the whole community that we will be implementing the recommendations of the environmental audit report, in full, to help prevent any future recurrence. “While measures that have been put in place have helped, we recognise that there is much more that we need to do. “That is why we have engaged with Re-Gen to ensure that all the recommendations, which exceed the statutory requirements set out by NIEA, are implemented in full.”

A Re-Gen statement said that it ‘has been running a transfer facility at Warrenpoint Port for more than a decade’, and that, when it was made aware of the issues, it ‘immediately took action by accelerating the shipment of materials from the site, double-wrapping the bales of RDF, introducing a digital bale management system, and increasing the use of a food-safe deodoriser’. ‘Re-Gen has noted the recommendations made by the report’s authors – a number of which have already been implemented, including reducing dwell time of bales at the facility well below the stated requirements,’ it continued. ‘The company pledges to follow through with the additional recommendations set out in the report, such as the use of a visual bird scarer, and better communication and engagement with local stakeholders.

‘On the latter, Re-Gen has already held engagement sessions with local residents and political representatives. ‘Of note, the report has flagged other sources of odour and flies – such as the adjacent wastewater treatment works, mudflats, agricultural slurry spreading and the anaerobic digestion plant.’ The company’s chief executive, Joseph Doherty, stated: “We apologise again to residents and other local stakeholders for the part Re-Gen played in the issues raised, and commit to continuing to do our utmost to prevent a repetition in the future. “We are reassured by the report that the actions we took to address the issues last summer were effective, and that the additional measures we have taken are in line or exceed those recommended by the authors. “We also welcome the acknowledgement that there are other potential sources of odour and flies in the vicinity, which have contributed to the problem. “As a team, we look forward to working alongside all local stakeholders in the future. “Warrenpoint is an important location for ReGen, not just as a base for the business, but also a place where many of our employees live. “As such, it is a key priority for us to operate in harmony alongside our neighbours.” The report is available to download at warrenpointport.com/environmentalinvestigation-report, and further information can be requested by contacting onboard@warrenpointport.co.uk or 028 4177 3381.

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